Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Out of Africa

Africa was the highlight of the trip so far for both me and

We arrived at Kilimanjaro Airport and almost immediately took
off for our camp in a twelve passenger plane.  One goes to
Tanzania to look at game.  We had three choices.  Two involved
staying in a lodge and the other one meant we stayed in tents.
Deb decided that we were going to stay in the Hoopoe Mobile
Tented Camp.

 After an hour long flight, we landed at a gravel
strip.  Our guides and their Land Crusiers were waiting for us.
The camp is actually less than a mile from the airport.  Our
guide, Babo, took us on a detour.  Within one hour, we had
seen zebras, wildebeests, giraffes, elephants, lions, gazelles,
and impalas.  And I am probably leaving out some.  The one
moment that I will remember from this trip is Deb's "Oh my God"
reaction when she first saw two lions sprawled out.

We were in the Serrengheti Plain, the region where millions
of wildebeests and zebra  can be found during their annual
north-south migration following the pattern of rainfall.  It
is peak season for the animals and their predators to be in the

Deb made the right call about staying in the tents.  Forget
about pup tents and all your experiences with tents.  I will
post some photographs of the tents but  I would estimate them
to be about 12' x 30"' with canvas floor and rugs.  There were
two beds with mosquito netting in the front compartment along
with a table and chairs.  There was also a front covered area
with another table and chair.  The back compartment of the tent
was the bathroom with the sink out front.  The toilet was on
the right and the shower was on the left.

The delivery of the water to the bathroom was the interesting
part.  At the rear of the tent, there was a pole with two plastic
pouches suspended on ropes.  The pouches could be raised or
lowered by a pulley system.  One pouch supplied the sink and the
other the shower.  You told the management when you  wanted to
take a shower and the workers would be there at the rear of the
tent with two five gallon buckets of hot water.  They would call
into the tent when your shower water had been hoisted into the
proper position.  You would get into the shower and turn a lever.
The gravity feed water would then come ouy of a regular shower
head.  The trick was of course to finish your shower before the
five gallons ran out.  But you could actually get a good shower
if you did not malinger. When Deb finished her shower, we would
call out to the man who was still waiting at the back of the  tent
"shower number two" and he would refill the bucket.  A rather
communal way of doing things but you sure did feel better after
you finished the shower.

We ate three meals a day in the dining tent.  We are talking about
tables with table clothes, china, and stainless steel cutlery.
The food was good and included many fresh items that had to been
brought in on the airplanes.

It was probably sixty degrees at night and we had no trouble
sleeping.  I can assure you that I did not wander out of the tent
at night to find out if any of the animals has decided to check
out our camp.

On the second day at the camp, We were out in the plain from 
seven am til eleven am.  The highlight of the morning was being
in the midst of thousands of wildebeest and zebra who were moving
in their migration.  There were animals in every direction.  We
also saw their predators, primarily the lions and chetahs, sometimes
with their kill.  I will post numerous photos of what we saw.
The wildebeest and the zebras would not let us get real close.  But
many of the other animals could care less about a nearby vehicle.
You could drive with in ten feet of the lounging lion and you might
get a raised head.  Lions sleep for up to twenty hours per day.  The
female lion does all the hunting.  Then she gives way to the male
to dine on the prey.  She then eats and shares it with any cubs.
I think these lions may be on to something.

We also saw cheetahs and their cubs.  Of course, the cheetah is the
fastest land animal.

It is interesting to figure out the pecking order on
the plain.  Elephants have no natural enemies other than
man.  Lions have no predators.  And I can not think of a
predator for the giraffes either.  Otherwise, everything
else is subject to being someone's lunch.

It is funny how Hollywood has shaped our perception of
African animals.  Everyone knows the the lion is the "king
of the Jungle".  Well, there may some lions in a jungle
but we saw them on an open savannah.  They are able to spot
their prey at a long distance and then stalk it.  We were
definitely not in a jungle  and we saw the majority of the
large African animals.

Now for some African out-back humor.  Why do you not play cards
in Africa?  Because there are so many cheetahs around.  Also,
what do you do when an elephant charges?  You get your credit
card out.

We are currently on a four hour plus flight to Jordan.  We will
have a two hour drive from the airport to Petra, Jordan.  This
is our alternative to Egypt.  We regret missing Egypt but it is
probably wise not to venture there right now.  This will also be
the first internet connection since India.  So  I  will be
downloading all the text and photos that I have been amassing.

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